Perceived labor market competition and out-group prejudice: Experimental evidence from refugee and host populations in Malaysia

Last registered on December 06, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Perceived labor market competition and out-group prejudice: Experimental evidence from refugee and host populations in Malaysia
Initial registration date
November 28, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
December 06, 2023, 8:14 AM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


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Primary Investigator

World Bank

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Goettingen
PI Affiliation
FNRS and LIDAM, UCLouvain
PI Affiliation
World Bank

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
The process of refugees achieving labor market integration is a crucial step in their path towards self-sufficiency and assimilation within the local community. Nonetheless, this integration can encounter significant challenges, particularly in countries such as Malaysia, which have not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention. In Malaysia, refugees and asylum seekers lack legal rights to formal employment. The official stance of the Malaysian Government categorizes UNHCR registered refugees and asylum seekers as 'illegal' or 'undocumented migrants'. Such an environment can fuel resentment, mistrust, and discrimination between refugees and the host population, especially when it may incorrectly portray refugees as competitors for employment and economic resources. This context may also lead refugees to compete with each other and hold differentiated attitudes even among refugee groups.
Our study aims to assess the impact of perceptions of labor market competition on out-group attitudes. To do this, we employ a randomized questionnaire module, which presents survey respondents with narratives about a fictitious individual. This individual can either belong to the in-group or different out-groups, and we randomly highlight differences or commonalities in labor market characteristics between the respondent and the fictitious individual.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Gasten, Anna et al. 2023. "Perceived labor market competition and out-group prejudice: Experimental evidence from refugee and host populations in Malaysia." AEA RCT Registry. December 06.
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Experimental Details


Our study consists of a randomized questionnaire module that will be implemented as part of a large representative survey. The questionnaire will be conducted with registered refugees and their neighboring host communities across four states in Malaysia, exploring facets such as living conditions, labor market characteristics, and interactions between refugees and hosts.
We are targeting refugee populations and host community members living in close proximity to each other in the regions of Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang and Johor in Malaysia.

Our survey sample will cover approximately 2,800 refugee households (including 1,000 Rohingya refugee households, 1,000 non-Rohingya refugee households from Myanmar, 800 refugee households from other countries) and around 1,400 host community households across 34 mukims (districts) in 4 states of Malaysia.

As part of this survey, respondents will be randomly exposed to different narrative vignettes about a fictitious member of the in-group or two different out-groups with identical or different labor characteristics.

In the case where participants are assigned to an out-group narrative, we distinguish between "close" and "distant" out-groups. For respondents in the refugee group, they are presented with narratives featuring either a refugee from the same identity (in-group), a refugee from a different identity (out-group A, close), or a Malaysian individual (out-group B, distant). Conversely, respondents in the Malaysian (local hosts) group will encounter narratives about a fictitious individual who is either another Malaysian (in-group), a refugee born in Malaysia (out-group A, close), or a refugee born in another country (out-group B, distant). This grouping approach allows us to delve into a unique aspect of the Malaysian context. Given the protracted refugee situation without easy pathways to legal residency or employment rights in Malaysia, there exists a notable number of individuals who were born in Malaysia but still carry a "refugee" status as second- or third-generation refugees. For refugees, our focus lies in investigating biases within the diverse refugee community and gaining insights into their perceptions of individuals who, like them, possess refugee status but belong to different nationalities.
The second dimension of randomization within the vignette relates to the fictitious character’s labor market characteristics, such as their occupation. Our experiment randomly varies this information across respondents so that the occupation either matches or is different from the main occupation exerted by the respondent’s household.

The study evaluates the interplay between perceived labor market competition and out-group discrimination. Based on the outcomes of our experiment, we aim to analyze the prevalent attitudes towards the out-group among hosts and refugees in Malaysia, and assess the extent to which these attitudes are influenced by different concepts of the “out-group”. Moreover, we will ask whether perceived labor market competition is an important driver of discriminatory attitudes towards the out-group.

The intervention in Malaysia is planned to start on November, 8th 2023 and end on March, 31st 2024.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our primary measures of interest are:
(1) Measures of prejudice towards the fictitious individual (based on a prejudice index that can be split into three dimensions: private, social, and work-related interactions)
(2) Behavioral stakes, such as the willingness to actually share the phone number and interact with the character described in the vignette
(3) Discriminatory attitudes with respect to labor market participation of the fictitious individual
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Questions belonging to measure (1) capture discriminatory attitudes. They cover questions on whether the respondent would accept an out-group member in their community, family, or as a work colleague. We will use these questions to build an Anderson index of how welcoming the respondent is towards members of the out-/ in-group.

Questions belonging to measure (2) include real behavioral stakes. The survey respondent is asked whether he/ she is fine if their phone number is shared with someone like the fictitious individual and how frequently they would like to interact. Those questions reflect a stronger commitment to interaction with the fictitious character than measure (1) which
captures discrimination in hypothetical situations.

Moreover, the survey includes a set of questions aimed at gauging labor-market-related discrimination (measure 3). We include normative questions eliciting the desired degree of labor market integration for the fictitious individual (should be hired; should start his own business) and the deserved remuneration (more/ less/ the same as the respondent).

These three sets of questions will allow us to analyze
(1) The level of discrimination towards the out-group compared with the in-group, with a special focus on close versus distant out-groups (see hypotheses 1 and 2)
(2) The degree of perceived labor market competition when individuals are sharing or not the same labor market characteristics (see hypothesis 3)
(3) The interplay between the two: Does discrimination increase in situations where perceived labor market competition is high? (See hypotheses 4 and 5)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
We will examine the vignette's impact on increased perceptions of competition, when it features a character with the same occupation.

We will additionally analyze heterogeneous effects based on

(1) Socio-demographic characteristics of the respondent (gender, employment status, income level etc.)
(2) Measures of past interactions (friendship, trust, economic and exchange networks) with the in- and out-group
(3) Experienced ethnic discrimination by the respondent
(4) Local characteristics, such as the density of refugees in the area and local labor market characteristics, which can serve as a measure of “actual” competition
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
In order to analyze whether the vignette indeed induced higher feelings of competition when containing a narrative of somebody sharing the occupation, we regress measures of competition (“I feel in competition with the character.”; “I fear people like him take away my job”) on a treatment dummy of sharing the same occupation with the fictitious character (=1 for T1, T3, T5; =0 for T2, T4, T6).

The heterogeneous analysis will be based on the following measures:

Measure (1) relies on socio-demographic characteristics of the respondent (e.g. gender, employment status, age, income level) that we capture in earlier modules of the questionnaire.

Measure (2) relies on questions from the section on refugee-host interactions (section 10) which is preceding the experimental vignette in section 11. In this section, we capture whether the respondent had friendship links with national Malaysians or refugees, whether his experiences with Malaysians or refugees were pleasant, and the trust level towards Malaysians or refugees.
For both refugees and Malaysian respondents, we can additionally measure integration with the out-group based on economic networks. These comprise financial exchanges (borrowing money) and support with residence and job search as well as health-related assistance.

Measure (3) assesses the frequency with which respondents feel they are treated with less respect due to their ethnicity or nationality. Through a heterogenous analysis of this measure, we aim to determine whether perceived personal discrimination is associated with the level of discriminatory attitudes towards others.

Measure (4) will be based on the local properties of our sample, such as the density of refugees within different “mukims” (Malaysian subdistricts, our PSUs) and local labor market characteristics like unemployment rates or density of specific jobs.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Our experimental intervention is embedded in a survey questionnaire focused on labor market outcomes and interactions between refugees and host communities in Malaysia.

As part of this experiment, respondents are randomly assigned to six equally sized treatment groups. Each respondent will listen to a single narrative about a fictitious individual who is either from the in-group or the out-group (out-group A (close); or out-group B (distant)) and sharing or not the main occupation exerted by the respondent’s household.
T1: In-group; same labor market characteristics (17%)
T2: In-group; different labor market characteristics (17%)
T3: Out-group A; same labor market characteristics (17%)
T4: Out-group A; different labor market characteristics (17%)
T5: Out-group B; same labor market characteristics (17%)
T6: Out-group B; different labor market characteristics (17%)

The experiment (module 11) is implemented towards the end of the survey. Its content is based on information from the labor market module (module 8) as well as the group membership of the respondent, which is gathered in the initial interview questions (S0.3). The experiment is directly preceded by a module on refugee-host relations (module 10), which serves as a balance check of the randomization process and provides a range of heterogeneous dimensions for descriptively testing the contact hypothesis within the experiment.

After the vignette is read out loud to the respondents, they are asked to respond to questions about the fictitious individual, notably concerning perceived labor market competition and general attitudes (prejudice, discrimination).

The purpose of our study is to better understand discriminatory attitudes towards the out- and in-group and to gauge the extent to which negative/positive perceptions of refugees among host communities as well as obstacles/drivers to integration among refugees are driven by the perception that both groups are competing or not in the labor market.

Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Computer-based during the survey
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
34 mukims in 4 Malaysian states. The choice is based on random sampling involving Probability proportionate to size.
Sample size: planned number of observations
2800 refugee households and 1400 host community households The experiment is part of a large household survey. While the initial sections on socio-demographics and labor market characteristics collect information for all or at least several randomly chosen individuals (answered by a single respondent on behalf of the other members), the experimental module is administered with a single respondent per household. Consequently, we do not have to cluster our standard errors at the household level and we are avoiding spillover effects. In an ideal scenario, the number of experimental observations will match the number of households in the sample. We are however expecting a certain attrition and non-response rate given the refugee-host context. Since randomization is implemented at the beginning of the experimental module and the sensitivity of the experimental content is generally low and comparable across all six treatment groups, we expect attrition to be random, and proportionally distributed across treatment groups. Another correction we will make to our sample for relevance is that part of our main analysis (Hypothesis 3, 4 and 5) can exclusively rely on individuals whose household is currently working. For these regression analyses, we are excluding households for which all members are out of the labor force, since the aim of triggering different degrees of perceived labor market competition with the vignette is not viable for them. Consequently, the sample size for which we will be able to run this analysis is likely to reduce slightly, especially among the refugee population who is more likely to be out of the labor force.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
The whole sample is split into 6 treatment arms. When disregarding attrition and non-response, as well as individuals whose household is out-of-the-labor-force, we are left with 700 respondents per treatment arm.
To account for the distinct perspectives of refugees and hosts, our final analysis will be conducted separately for these two groups, yielding approximately 230 host respondents per treatment group and 470 refugee respondents per treatment group.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
The analysis will be conducted separately for refugees and hosts, and will enable us to separately examine five distinct hypotheses. This results in treatment and control groups that differ in size for each of the subsequent hypotheses. Consequently, we have provided below the Minimum Detectable Effect size for refugees and hosts separately across the five hypotheses. Hosts (N=1400) Refugees (N=2800) H1: n1=933 (treatment group) n2=466 (control group) Power=0.8 MDE=0.159 n1=1866 n2=933 Power=0.8 MDE=0.112 H2: n1=466 n2=466 Power=0.8 MDE=0.184 n1=933 n2=933 Power=0.8 MDE=0.130 H3: n1=700 n2=700 Power=0.8 MDE=0.150 n1=1400 n2=1400 Power=0.8 MDE=0.106 H4: n1=466 n2=933 Power=0.8 MDE=0.159 n1=933 n2=1866 Power=0.8 MDE=0.112 H5: n1=233 n2=1166 Power=0.8 MDE=0.201 n1=466 n2=2333 Power=0.8 MDE=0.142 These MDEs are realistic, given the results of similar strands of literature (e.g. Cattaneo and Grieco, 2020 ).

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
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